PERRY/Let sequestration happen
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 12:00 AM
The White House released state by state reports on the impact of President Barack Obama's sequestration plan: the $85 billion in mandatory funding cuts proposed and signed by President Obama and approved by Congress in 2011. According to the Obama Administration data, education and the military would be hardest hit in the Magnolia State.
But some of the funding cuts don't seem to reach the crisis level the Democrats want to portray. For example, according to the White House, sequestration would eliminate Head Start funding for 1600 children in Mississippi. But based on numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mississippi's funding allocation for Head Start in FY 2011 was $174,610,322 for 27,396 children or $6374 per child. For sequestration to "eliminate" funding for 1600 children, we have to believe that Head Start cannot function at $6002 per child ($372 less) which is still higher than the FY 2007 funding. Sequestration will not throw 1600 children off Mississippi's Head Start rolls, it will just trim the funding back to previous levels.
Y'all Politics noted that the cuts to education in Mississippi would be basically one-tenth of one percent. And reports from the military note the earliest furloughs would begin is late April, giving Congress and the President yet more time to act after the March 1 sequestration kick-in and even after the March 27 budget deadline for a continuing resolution.
Trimming does not create a crisis.
That was the point former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour made recently in an appearance on Fox Business News. "We're talking about a tiny, tiny fraction of the federal budget...the American people know the government can save three percent in a heartbeat...even when you make these cuts for most of those categories [domestic discretionary] spending will be far higher than when Barack Obama came into office," Barbour said. He recommended calling the President's bluff, "I hope and believe that Republicans will allow the sequestration to go into effect, so that we can start down a path of trying to get control of spending and reduce the deficit by savings, because, I'm like most Americans: I don't think we have a trillion dollar plus deficit every year because we tax too little, it's cause we spend too much."
The spending cuts are mandated to certain programs, but where those cuts are made within those programs are largely with the discretion of the executive branch. President Obama could manage the cuts to cause the least amount of disruption in government services and employee salaries. Senate Republicans plan to put that onus on him more; they are proposing legislation which would give him greater flexibility to direct the cuts.
The Democratic controlled U.S. Senate has blocked previous sequestration avoidance bills passed by the Republican House of Representatives. Senate Democrats and President Obama want more revenue - in other words: tax increases. Third District Congressman Gregg Harper last week told the Madison County Business League's annual luncheon, "If the solution is to raise taxes, it's just not going to happen."
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker placed the blame with the President last August when he presented the Republican's Weekly Radio Address: "So far, the president has failed to offer any answer. Mr. President - it is hard to reach a bipartisan solution if the commander-in-chief is not engaged. The looming sequester crisis should be an opportunity for both parties to work together now to avoid permanent harm to our troops and to our security. Let's hope the commander-in-chief decides to lead. The stakes are unmistakably high. Crippling defense cuts are just around the corner, and we have an obligation to make tough decisions on how to avoid sequestration and balance the budget long-term."
President Obama - who said in his debate with Mitt Romney during the recent campaign that the sequestration "would not happen" - is taking the cuts local by making public appearances to stir up fear of the cuts, including Tuesday's visit to Virginia's Newport News Shipyard.
While sequestration looks to happen on March 1, the actual cuts phase in over a long period of time and Congress will likely go back and make changes to the cuts, in fact, it might inspire the Democratic controlled Senate to allow some kind of budget resolution through - Democrats have refused to pass a budget resolution since April of 2009.
Any sequestration tweaks in coming months would need support from influential consensus builders like Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran who himself has shown great frustration with the Democrats. "I'm disappointed that the Senate Democratic sequester package falls squarely on the backs of our defense and agriculture sectors. I understand that this is a political messaging bill, and I think it's unfair and unfortunate that the entire federal government looks to agriculture and national defense to pay for its debt," said Cochran.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.